National Stock Numbers or NSNs, are 13-digit serial numbers assigned to all standardized items within the federal supply chain. All components that are used by the U.S Department of Defense are required to have an NSN, the purpose of which is to provide a standardized naming of components. The NSN system can be dated back to WWII when the military would use a specific component that had several different names depending on who supplied or manufactured the component. This made it difficult for the military to locate suppliers, or share items between the different organizational branches. An item could be in short supply in one location, but in surplus in another. To solve this sourcing issue, the Department of Defense created the NSN system.
Also known as NATO stock numbers, NSNs are recognized by all NATO countries. The NSN can be further broken down into smaller subcategories, each providing individual information about the component. To begin, the first four digits of the NSN are known as the Federal Supply Classification Group. The FSCG determines which of the 645 subclasses an item belongs to. The FSCG is further split into the Federal Supply Group (FSG) and the Federal Supply Classification (FSC). The FSG is made up of the first two digits of the NSN which determines which of the 78 groups an item belongs to. The second 2 digits make up the FSC, which determines the subclass an item belongs to
The aerospace and defense industries are complex industries that are based on an overwhelming amount of terminology and specifications. In this regard, it is entirely necessary that there is a system in place to classify the various components that are manufactured, sourced, and shipped. NSNs bring uniformity to parts sourcing, which, in turn, streamlines the logistics of the aerospace industry. Once more, NSNs can be likened to math - they are the same in every country. This helps to avoid any sourcing confusion or language barrier complications. An aircraft bearing can be easily identified in both the U.S. and Lithuania. The NSN system is highly useful to the military. As a body that needs to quickly and efficiently source parts, NSNs help officials do just that. Gone are the WWII days when parts were haphazardly distributed and named arbitrarily.
From a distributor’s point of view, NSNs are a lucrative means of sourcing. By knowing the corresponding NSNs for your components, you can do business within federal marketplace. In this arena, part suppliers and distributors can gain large profits on bulk orders of hard-to-find or obsolete nsn parts.
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